BPL 2020 Commencement Address - Kyle Rogers

 March 24, 2002. Another black kid was born. Nice brown eyes, chubby cheeks and a smile that would light up a dark room. That child's name is Kyle Tremaine Rogers. Coming up Kyle was different. He had asthma and wasn’t physically fit like his friends. However he never let that stop him. He was a smart and funny kid until he grew a little older. At the age of 13, he started getting into trouble; fights, talking back to teachers, skipping classes and getting kicked off the school bus. No one understood what got into him. Well, I’m here today to explain that story.

As a student of color it’s hard. It’s hard to ask for help because you’re scared to ask the wrong questions, you’re scared to give a “stupid answer”, you don’t get enough individual time in with your teacher because the bell rings every 30 mintues for 6 hours a day. Trust me I know the pain. I know about skipping class to escape your academic failure. I know what it’s like to be mad at everyone because no one understands. Trust me, I do. No one understood the pain both school and life brung to me until I reached high school. I was lost. I was stuck on trying to impress everyone else and never impressed myself.

My transition into high school wasn't easy. I still had my ways of handling things. Staff members and I used to get into heated conversations and I would just say some wild things. I entered high school with a lot of lost education and not even knowing what I wanted for myself. So I still had the mindset that no one wants to help me. Fine i'll do things my way. I was struggling. I was bad at math because I wasted three years of school not paying attention in class. I had a low reading score not because I didn’t know how to read, but because I didn’t know how to read at a high school level. It took me a while to find an internship because I didn’t know who took interns and I didn’t know what I wanted to be doing. I spent a lot of my freshman year fooling around and adapting to life as a Met student. I spent that whole summer working and when I came back for my second year I was ready to get the ball rolling. Freshman Year I interned at my old program YouthBuild working with students of color. I was in the program before I became a high school student. That’s where the love of working with youth came from. My second year I was lucky to take on the opportunity to be working with a gym teacher at Times 2 academy where I got to teach students in grades K through 3 the proper basketball skills. During my Sophomore year of high school I started to have better relationships with the staff at The Met. My personality started to shift because for the first time in my entire life I felt wanted in the school setting. If I wasn’t at school I had staff on my phone asking if I'm okay or do I need help? Staff here made me feel wanted throughout my journey. My sophomore year was the foundation for my junior year, During my sophomore year I did some work over at The Nonviolence Institute and built a connection with the staff there that would land me an internship there my junior year. I started off doing Nonviolence training to better my Nonviolence lifestyle while still giving community service hours to the people who choose to attend. By the second part of Junior year I took on a big project which was to bring the students who participated in a 40 hour training down to Selma, Alabama to see the physical history of what we do. I raised over $2,000 and was able to get a $6,000 grant from the state. The memories of that trip will stick with me forever. The 24 hour van ride there and back. The first night we spent singing. The trip to Walmart. Even the day we did face masks and got scared by salt. I am truly blessed to have gotten that opportunity and shared it with my folks. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t always laughs and giggles. We got to see all the historic places in Selma. We got to visit Martin Luther King, Jr.'s house; the bridge where “Bloody Sunday” had taken place. We went through the slave simulation and got a tour of the baptist churchs where they had their meetings. The people of Selma welcomed us with open arms. They even threw down for us one day when we were visiting the church. It’s safe to say I changed after experiencing what success looks like for myself but I couldn’t have done it without the people who made this all possible.

I grew up in a neighborhood where it’s easy to adapt to the “street” life. As a person of color and being a male figure you get judged by every little decision you make. Going to get candy from a store, hanging with friends, riding bikes, I can go on about all the reasons people doubted me, counted me out, and expected less from me. However, that story didn’t last long. I spent all my life crying out for help in silence. No help, no guidance, no role models. I felt alone 90% of the time. Lost in my thoughts, stuck in a dark place and my only distraction from all that was to make other people laugh. I surrounded myself with people whose focus wasn’t on school, either. I made a lot of dumb mistakes along the way but I can honestly say without those decisions I wouldn’t be here giving this relatable speech. If you come from where I come from you’ll see all the messed up things that go on, all the things that are meant to break you.

Exhibit A: The criminal justice system is built for people like us to fail. Don’t jump off that porch until you know the consequences that come with it, potentially losing your life by a L shaped lethal weapon or a 6 by 8 room. I lost a lot of people to both; friends, family, could’ve been myself. I got lucky and that’s not something you get too often round here. You got to put in the work and pray that someone can recognize that you're trying. I spent countless nights worried about what my next move was gonna be, once I split my world in half everything started moving slow, I was getting into the groove of school while still being Brimzy. I never changed who I was, I just changed the things that made me who I wasn’t.

We’re born into a cycle of struggle and violence, we might not share the same struggle or face the same form of violence but that's just how it is. All my life I have been one sided. I thought that just because someone was white and had a bigger house than me that their life was good. But I know now that’s not the case. I did meet some folks who had it worse then I do. I met some folks with a pocket full of money but could never bring their son, daughter, aunt or uncle back. Even money can’t heal all wounds or buy back time you lost. This life is a game of chess but we as people are trying to take the easy route. Some are playing checkers 24/7 because we can’t deal with the real complex version of life. I pray that I don't go over y’all heads.

I’m going to miss High School more than I could ever imagine: the Pick me ups, the kick me outs, the amazing races, the whole school field trips, and all the staff members and their famous sayings. I’m going to miss dropping into Cheryl’s office for no reason at all, I'm going to miss dropping into Latoya's office just to have an unnecessary conversation. I’m going to miss walking into Michelle's room just to bother her but give her my last couple of singles. I’m going to miss the conversations at the front desk and walking around liberty like I'm the “mayor,” as Cheryl likes to call it. I’m going to miss the “Good Morning son” with a nice big hug from Sabrina down to the "Look who decided to come to school" from my advisory. Brian your advisory was like my backup advisory. Even through all the friendly competitions there was always love. I went from a teenage boy to A gifted young man. The Met played a huge role with who I am today and it's sad to say that this is the goodbye to something I wanted to last forever. The smell of liberty after fear factory will never be missed.

I risked a lot in my lifetime: failed friendships, failed relationships and failed networks, I say all that because life's all about taking risks and applying that lesson to improve. You can never truly win until you take a loss. Just prepare yourself for the worst and focus on the best. With that being said, my next step is to take my Business E.X.O.T.I.C to the next level. I want to build my community vs continue to break it. I want to show my black and brown folks how to play chess in a world full of people who love to see us playing checkers. It's time someone woke the community up vs helping them sleep. I want to show my people the way of life. We don’t need to live worrying about when that next welfare check will go. Kyle Tremaine Rogers will make millions and my community will, too.

2020 knocked me off my feet. I planned on committing to the University of New Haven but now that we live in a world where surgical masks and gloves are an essential to every outfit, I decided to commit to CCRI for two years then transfer to a four year university to finish my degree. Know this ain’t the end it's just a head start to the beginning, I grinded all my life for an opportunity to show my community people who come from where we come from can be successful. I was exposed to everything that could stop a person from reaching their goals. But I was strong, smart and knew how to move. I will be one to wake the city up and put a spotlight on a city filled with darkness. My name Is Kyle and until we meet again stay safe.